Trinity Sunday

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

Isaiah 6.1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

     “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
         the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

 

Romans 8.12-17

Brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 

John 3.1-17

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No-one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

 

A reflection by Arthur

 

Today, we are celebrating the Triune Majesty of God.  What do we make of it?  We often refer to the ‘Three-in-One’, or the three persons of the Godhead, but what do we mean, and, more importantly, what do we understand by it all?

First of all we should be excited by getting to know God in such a way as to understand a little about our relationship with him.  There is no mention of the Trinity as such in the Bible.  What we are dealing with here is the relationship between God the Father, his Son Jesus the Christ or Anointed One, and the Holy Spirit as it unfolds in the Bible.  We begin to build an understanding of what God is like in the ways he deals with his people.  Through the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost we can begin to see the true nature of God.

From the very beginning, in the creation story, there is a relationship described between God, Jesus and the Spirit.  In Genesis we read, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.’  Later, when God had created the sky and the land, and populated them with plants and animals, he said, ‘Let us create man in our image, in our likeness.’  These simple statements stretch our imagination immediately.  Who is this Spirit of God, and who are these ‘us’ characters?  Surely God created the world, didn’t he?  Jesus, after all, didn’t appear on earth until 2,000 years ago, and the world is much older than that.  But John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.”  And as for the Holy Spirit, Jesus told us that God would send him to us to be our comforter after Jesus had ascended to return to his Father in heaven.  These aspects of God’s character, or being, suggest to us that they are one and the same being.  We cannot fully understand the relationship between them now, and all will only become clear to us when we join them in the heavenly kingdom.  But it is important for us to explore these things so that we can deepen our relationship to them.

The Trinity is about how God continues to be involved in the world, and we are caught up to share in his life.  God is love; the relationships within the Trinity are of reciprocal love; the creation of the world is an act of overflowing love, so we, as created beings, are caught up in this ‘dance of love’ within God.

In our reading from Isaiah, we heard the description of his vision of heaven, full of fire and smoke.  All that he sees is significant in highlighting the holiness of God.  God is ‘the Holy One of Israel’.  But his holy people have been corrupted by the dishonest practices of their leaders.  They have engaged in misguided worship and suffered social injustice.  King Uzziah, bypassing the priests, had made an offering in the Temple, and was struck with a skin disease.  It is after Uzziah’s death that Isaiah has this vision of God enthroned in the Temple.

The scene is filled with movement, and fire and smoke, reminding us of the guiding presence of God and of sacrifices offered in the Temple.  Isaiah’s response to the overwhelming holiness of God is an awareness of his own and his people’s sinfulness.  Only when he is cleansed by a Seraph (‘fiery one’ in Hebrew) touching his lips with a fiery coal, can he hear the call of God

himself, and respond.  Is that where we are today?  Do we need to be cleansed by a fiery coal before we can hear God’s word for us?  In all our services, we have a time of penitence when we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.  It is only in accepting that we do not always do what is right, and often do what is wrong that we are fully open to the grace of God.

Paul, in our reading from Romans, talks about being caught up into the life of God.  In fact this seems to be at the heart of this reading.  He often uses the word ‘flesh’ to indicate that which is not spiritual.  He uses the word to mean different things in different places.  Here he is talking about ‘human nature’, as the Good News Bible has it.  But Paul is contrasting two ways of living; not the physical versus the spiritual, but life centred on God or not centred on God.  He compares the images of being slaves or children.  But this is not about degrees of freedom so much as looking at the future.  After all, 2,000 years ago, sons were obliged to their fathers as much as slaves were to their masters.  But sons can expect an inheritance from their ‘masters’.  Through the death and resurrection of Christ, we too can be part of the glorious life of God.  The Spirit of God working within us enables us to recognise, rejoice and live this.

Paul goes on to clarify what he means in these verses.  He tells us that by putting to death the misdeeds of the body, we will live.  We will live because we allow the Spirit to work within us and so we become sons of God.  The Spirit we received is not one who will let us return to living as slaves of fear, but one who encourages us into the life of sonship.  And it is this Spirit that enables us to cry ‘Abba, Father’.  The Spirit witnesses that we are children of God, and as such heirs of God.  We are also heirs of Christ if we share in his sufferings in order to share in his glory.

We can liken the Trinity to a circle, with love going backwards and forwards in all directions at once between all those caught up in the circle of the life of God.  It is like being invited to join a dance.  Isaiah was being drawn into the dance, and straight away said, ‘Send me’.  Do we feel the excitement of being drawn into the dance with God, and can we say, with Isaiah, ‘Send me’?

Post Communion Prayer

Almighty and eternal God,
you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
and live and reign in the perfect unity of love:
hold us firm in this faith,
that we may know you in all your ways
and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory,
who are three Persons yet one God,
now and for ever.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

Isaiah 6.1-8 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton 
John 3.1-17 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Romans 8.12-17 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (Trinity Sunday) ©  Oxford University Press: The Book of Common Worship of the Church of South India
Collect (Trinity Sunday) ©  The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)